The King’s Speech reigned at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards and so did plenty of Aussies on a record-breaking, golden night for the Australian film industry.


SBS FILM: Academy Awards

Australians collected five Oscars – eclipsing the previous record of three achieved in 1996 when Mel Gibson’s Braveheart dominated and in 2002 when Moulin Rouge’s Catherine Martin led the Australian charge with two of that night’s three statuettes.

The ceremony, held inside the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, began on a sad note when Jacki Weaver’s unlikely journey to the Oscars ended without an Oscar.

Weaver, a 63-year-old Oscar newcomer nominated for her startling role in the Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom, was trumped in the supporting actress category by favourite, New Yorker Melissa Leo, who forced the censors to blank out a four letter expletive in her acceptance speech.

“Those words, I apologise to anyone that they offend,” a sheepish Leo told reporters backstage.

Just moments later Fremantle-born, Melbourne resident Shaun Tan claimed the first Australian Oscar of the night in a major upset in the short animated film category.

Tan’s 15 minute computer generated and hand-painted movie, The Lost Thing, was up against Night & Day, a film created by the giant of the animation industry, Pixar, whose credits include billion dollar box office films like this year’s best animated feature winner, Toy Story 3.

“Our film is about a creature that nobody pays any attention to, so this is wonderfully ironic,” Tan, 37, said. Next up was make-up supremo Dave Elsey, a Brit who moved to Sydney 12 years ago to work on the TV sci-fi series Farscape and decided to call the Harbour City home.

Elsey joined forces on the horror film The Wolfman with one of the most prolific Oscar winners in history, American Rick Baker, a winner of six make-up Academy Awards before the ceremony began, and it proved to be fruitful for both. They beat the make-up teams for Barney’s Vision and The Way Back.

“I never thought that we would ever work together because, you know, I was living in Sydney, Australia and Rick was living here,” Elsey told reporters.

Australian visual effects nominees Joe Farrell (Hereafter) and Ben Snow (Iron Man 2) did not share in the gold rush, however Kirk Baxter, the Sydney editor on the Facebook film, The Social Network, claimed the Oscar.

Baxter was backstage talking to reporters when the winner of the director’s category was announced.

Baxter had his fingers crossed for The Social Network’s David Fincher. “Booooo,” Baxter playfully blurted when it was announced The King’s Speech’s director Tom Hooper, a 38-year-old dual Australian and British citizen, was the winner.

Hooper made special mention in his acceptance speech of his Adelaide-born mother, Meredith, who sat proudly in the Kodak Theatre crowd and was responsible for first alerting her son to the potential of The King’s Speech.

“There has been a lot of thanking of mums,” Hooper said, referring to other Oscar winners’ speeches earlier in the night.

“This is slightly different. My mum in 2007 was invited by some Australian friends in London to a fringe theatre play reading of an unproduced, unrehearsed play called The King’s Speech.

“She almost didn’t go because it didn’t sound promising, but thankfully she did because she came home, rang me up and said she had found my next film.”

Hooper’s win set the tone for the remainder of the ceremony, with The King’s Speech, starring British actor Colin Firth as the stuttering King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, dominating the major awards.

Firth followed Hooper’s win with the best actor Oscar then the Sydney producer of the historical drama, Emile Sherman, was presented with an Oscar when The King’s Speech was named winner of the top award of the night, best picture.

Rush missed out on the second Oscar of his career when The Fighter’s Christian Bale collected the supporting actor Oscar.

Nicole Kidman, nominated for her leading performance in Rabbit Hole, joined fellow actors Weaver and Rush without Oscars when Natalie Portman, for Black Swan, was named winner of the best actress trophy.

Portman, expecting a baby in four months, told reporters she would not be naming her child Oscar.